Thursday, June 11, 2009

And you thought it couldn't get any worse

After the shooting of an innocent man, widespread illegal surveillance and systematic beating of protestors, and the death of Ian Tomlinson after having his insides pulped by a police baton, you might have thought the London Metropolitan Police Department couldn't get any worse. If so, you were wrong: now they're waterboarding people:

Six Metropolitan police officers have been suspended from duty following ­allegations they used a form of water-based torture on suspected drugs ­smugglers, it emerged last night.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it was investigating the conduct of officers based in Enfield, north London, during drugs raids in the borough last November.

Neither the IPCC nor Scotland Yard would comment on the nature of the ­allegations but sources said the officers were accused of pushing suspects' heads into buckets of water.

One IPCC document is said to use the word "waterboarding" – the CIA technique condemned as torture by Barack Obama – in connection with the allegations.

The torture claims are part of an investigation which also includes accusations that evidence was fabricated and suspects' property was stolen. It has already led to the abandonment of a drug trial, it was reported last night.

Given the quality of the IPCC's past investigations, we know how this will go: the police will obstruct, deny, and delay, the establishment will protect its own, and ultimately the whole thing will be whitewashed and swept under the carpet - leaving the officers involved free to torture again. Though I suppose the IPCC could get really tough, as it did in the de Menezes case, and prosecute the police under health and safety regulations for running an unsafe workplace...

It should be clear from the above that I have about as much faith in the UK IPCC as I have in the NZ version. They've earned it. And this case is the result. This is what happens if you let police officers act with impunity. This is what happens if they are allowed to escape being held accountable for clear wrongdoing on account of their uniform (oh, and its what happens when the government gives a wink and a nod to torture, officially deploring it while in practice colluding in it). Those tempted by the local advocates of unaccountability (who are at it again this morning) should take note.